Faith

Prayer Flops; Prayer Wins

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Josef threw his Bible across the room. 

“I’m done! No more! This pursuit of God is getting me nowhere! Everything is falling apart. I pray and I still lose my job. I plead with God for a woman to marry and all I get is rejection after rejection. I am so depressed.”

For the next six or so months, Josef stopped attending church. He dropped out of the small group (of which no one ever reached out to him to find out why he left). He picked up some bad habits including alcohol and a deep dive into porn.  Needless to say, he cut off all conversation with God. His prayer life was non-existent.

It seems what happened to the Jews after the Exodus was happening to Josef.

Deuteronomy 28:47-48 says,

Because you did not serve the Lord your God with joyfulness and gladness of heart, because of the abundance of all things, therefore, you shall serve your enemies whom the Lord will send against you, in hunger and thirst, in nakedness, and lacking everything. And he will put a yoke of iron on your neck until he has destroyed you.

The Jews had an abundance of all things and yet did not serve the LORD with joy or gladness of heart. Deep down in Josef’s heart, he knew pursuit of God was the right thing to do, but his entire mind was messed up. He wasn’t thinking clearly and thus he found himself a slave to the enemies of sin. 

As John 15:5 explains, It is having an abiding conversational relationship with God through Jesus that turns the ship of our lives in the right direction. 

 I am the vine; you are the branches. Whoever abides in me and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing.

Joy comes when we abide in Jesus. It doesn’t come by osmosis. It comes as we intentionally yield our will to His. This is something Josef wasn’t grasping. Three false faith narratives made Joesf flop at prayer.

Three Reasons Joy is Not Produced When We Pray

1. God is our last resort. We only come to Jesus when we are in a crisis. We try to solve the problems on our own. We try every which way to get things to work. When all else fails, we go to God.  

“God, I’m desperate. I’ve tried to fix things and nothing works. It’s all broken. Can you fix this?”

There is no joy in praying that way.

2. We have a transactional mindset.  If I am good, attend church, and small group, do my daily Bible reading, and watch what I say to others, then God will come through for me. I act good, then God acts good to me.  This approach never works out in the end. God is not a puppet we can control by favorably pulling the strings. Doing the right things for what you get out of it will not bring joy in prayer.

3. We pray when we want something. Related to the two other false-narrative ideas on prayer, we only come to God when we want something. 

“God, I’d sure like to buy that car. God, I’d sure like that new boat. God, I want a girlfriend. God, could you get me a raise?”

If we only ask God gimmee prayers, we reveal our entitlement attitude. Where entitlement is pervasive, gratitude is non-existent. When God doesn’t give us what we want, we see God as punitive. We see God as mad at us.

Contrasted with prayer flops (as Josef experienced), there is a better way to pray. A way that brings joy and fosters an abiding walk with Jesus.

Three Ways Prayer Brings Joy

We have two kids; a daughter and a son. Both are young adults now, married with kids of their own. However, when they were little it was quite obvious they longed to be with my wife and me. I recall Justin as a little boy wanting to hold my hand as we walked at the zoo or park. Our daughter, Karissa, wanting to be with Sandy, snuggling with a book or making something together.

As with our heavenly Father, there are three ways prayer brings joy.

1. We love to see God our Father perform. When we pray and see God answer, we are first-hand witnesses of seeing Him work! That brings joy!  

Recently, I was meeting with a young man for breakfast. In a previous conversation, he opened up about some childhood trauma he faced and how it was still impacting his demeanor. He couldn’t put his finger on exactly what was the issue, but he was in a vicious circle of discouragement and wanted out. 

As I walked into the restaurant, I asked Jesus to show up and do what He needed to in this young man’s life; to break this vicious cycle and find freedom in his identity in Jesus.

Our conversation went through the normal light-hearted weather talk for a few minutes. Then, things shifted to deeper conversations; picking up where we left off last time.  The Lord was present and there were definite breakthroughs.  Later that day, he texted me,

“Thank you… The way God has gifted you and created in you a compassionate and encouraging heart is such a blessing to be impacted by…”

Talk about joy!  Not because of me, but because the prayer I asked God before that early morning breakfast came true! The needle in a young man’s life has shifted to the good. Healing is happening!

2. Children love doing things with their Father.  When our son Justin turned 10, I realized how fast his first decade went, and that his next decade would go even faster!  So, I invested $400 in camping gear. We started out in the backyard (during a rainstorm, which added to the adventure!). Eventually, we found a State Park with hiking trails and a lake to explore. Boys love building fires. It gives them a sense of power and purpose. Doing things with me changed Justin’s demeanor as he went through his teen years. 

When he was 14 he wrote me a Father’s Day card that exemplifies the joy he has in me being his dad and the times we did things together. 

Doing things with God, for the Kingdom, knowing you play a role, and that He enjoys being with you brings joy!  It spurs me on to greater prayers for doing things with Him.

3. We become awestruck at the results God is doing.  The day our daughter got married was almost surreal. We have an 8-minute video on YouTube that captures that wonderful day. All those years praying for our daughter as a little girl. Praying through her school years, seeing her traits and interests emerging. Praying for boys who were taking an interest in her. As her dad, interviewing her dates (those were some fun experiences!).  Praying over the young man who asked for her hand in marriage. Then, the wedding day finally arrived and we could not have asked for a more joyful time!  To this day we are still awestruck by God’s goodness.  Those nearly 23 years of praying for Karissa were answered. None of it was a waste.  God was working far more than we could have asked or imagined, and He still is!

When you are abiding in Jesus, your entire perspective on prayer shifts and joy is one of the results. Keep in mind that joy is not something you or I muster up.  In all of his good intentions, Josef was trying to muster up joy by doing church things. It flopped for him. 

Your prayer life wins when you see the value of abiding with Jesus in all, not a few things.

The good news about Josef is he saw the error of his false-narratives. Shifting to what the Bible says about prayer positively impacted his relationship with Jesus. 

Warrior On!

David Riffel is the Founder and Executive Director of www.Mentoring-Warriors.com. Having gone through his warrior years (18-30) essentially without a mentor, God has placed in him a heart for warriors, to come alongside them in various ways as they figure out life. David’s newly released book, Mentoring Warriors: Coming Alongside Young Men 18-30, outlines principles for mentoring and gives advice for warriors in six key areas of life: self-management, life skills, education/career, relationships, faith, and identity.

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